Reuben Finighan reviews 'Climate Shock' by Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman

Reuben Finighan reviews 'Climate Shock' by Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman

Climate Shock: The economic consequences of a hotter planet

by Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman

Princeton University Press (Footprint Books), $44.95 hb, 264 pp, 9780691159478

Writing an effective book on climate change is a challenge as diabolicalas it is important. The complexity of the science, economics, and politics is daunting. How to extract the diamonds lurking in the rough of the International Panel on Climate Change reports? How to balance the good cop, dishing out hope, with the bad, lashing the reader with honest accounts of potential catastrophe? If the book should be a hit, how to fend off those hordes of vested interests determined to muddy even the clearest of waters?

Climate Shock’s strategy is not obvious on first picking up the book. Published by Princeton University Press, and authored in part by the highly respected Harvard economist Martin L. Weitzman, one might expect the rattling of a bone-dry academic paper. The subtitle, ‘The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet’, suggests loftier ambitions: it references the great economist John Maynard Keynes’s book The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), which married scholarly insight with sparkling prose. On the other hand, the ferocious red of the cover, with jagged lines carving out the promise to ‘shock’, screams sensationalism. It is more in line with the style of the book’s co-author, Gernot Wagner, who has penned accessible books on climate change like But Will the Planet Notice? (2012). By the end of the preface, it is clear that Wagner’s jocularity has prevailed. It is his road we travel, through the landscape of Weitzman’s research.

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Reuben Finighan

Reuben Finighan

Reuben Finighan is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School, where he studied as a Fulbright Scholar and Frank Knox Fellow. He is an award-winning writer and has a cross-disciplinary background spanning neuroscience, climate change, innovation and inequality. He is currently a Senior Research Officer at the University of Melbourne.

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